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How to Pick the Right Charter

With spring approaching, many people are looking for fishing charters to get out and enjoy the nice Florida weather and bend the rod on some cooperative fish. Whether you choose me or another captain in the Bay area, do your due diligence before hiring someone.

With spring approaching, many people are looking for fishing charters to get out and enjoy the nice Florida weather and bend the rod on some cooperative fish. Whether you choose me or another captain in the Bay area, do your due diligence before hiring someone. Google their name or business name and look for reviews. Having a website is a good indication that they’re legitimate and in this for the long haul. Check to see if they’re licensed and insured and how long they’ve been in business.

You might want to interview a few before deciding. When you do, ask what kind of boat they have and how many it will fish comfortably. Ask about the captain–how experienced are they? Is any of that tournament experience? Have they worked as a mate for an established captain in the past? Be sure what you’re spending your hard-earned money on will be the right fit for you. Reading reviews can help. If you can't find any, ask the captain where they can be found. This industry is full of egos and in many instances, service has taken a backseat.

If you Google "Tampa Fishing Charters," you’ll see the ads first, then the maps page below that, then the organic rankings. The ads are a quick way to the top and many good captains spend money to advertise there. The maps page will show you where the captain is located or does pickups. Many captains use the Gandy ramp as an address but don’t pick up there. They will often redirect you to their home port in Ruskin, Apollo Beach, St Petersburg, or even Clearwater. That’s fine, but when you’re looking for someone in Tampa, do you really want to drive to St. Pete? Be sure they can pick you up somewhere that’s convenient for you.

Another thing to keep in mind is price. Fishing charters are not cheap. The average four hour trip on Tampa Bay for two anglers can run around $400. Each additional angler is usually $50 extra. If you find a captain running for less than the going rate for your area, it should send up a warning flag. Said captain may not carry insurance or possibly not even have a license. Don't be afraid to ask to see credentials. If they can't be produced, move on. Keep this in mind–for the captain, this is a business. They’re not stuffing $500 in their pocket to blow; they are paying for that nice boat you’re fishing on–and most cost well over $30K–or those rod and reel combos at $200 each. They also have maintenance and repairs that run into the thousands each year to keep the boat in safe operating order.

For all the comments about how this is the life, it’s an expensive one-man operation that doesn’t allow for sick or personal days. If you want a professional charter captain to fish with, an extra $100 should not be a deciding factor. You get what you pay for. Many captains will agree to drop $50 to secure a trip, but more will let one go rather than slash $100 to get your business. And with spring making an entrance, there’s plenty of business to go around, so prices tend to remain firm.

Keep in mind, no matter who you hire, this is your fishing trip, your day, and your hard earned cash. Settling for a cheap price to save a few bucks is not worth it. In other words, stay away from Groupon.



The Online Fisherman

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